De Steeg – Middachten House
450 -1500

Middle Ages and the Dukedom of Gelre

Gelderland, or Gelre as the province was called in the Middle Ages, was the most important principality in the Northern Netherlands. Gelre was a dukedom from 1339 to 1671 and was always mentioned first in the list of principalities/provinces. All periods from the early to the late Middle Ages have left their traces in Gelderland. Gelderland not only has the most medieval cities, but also the most castles in the Netherlands.

 

Ringwalls
In the early Middle Ages, our province was laying on the edge of the Frankish Empire and the land of the Saxon tribes. Under Charlemagne, the Saxon country was also incorporated into the empire. King Charles had a palace built at the Valkhof in Nijmegen, where he often stayed. Missionaries went into the Saxon area to convert the population to Christianity. Local rules built fortifications such as the circular fortresses near The largest fortifications were built during the Viking raids, such as the fortifications in Elten and Tiel and the large circular fortress of Zutphen. Mottenburchten (fortifications on hills, whether artificial or not) arose from the year 1000 onwards, like on the Montferland, Bronckhorst and Mergelpe near Nijmegen.

Dukedom of Gelre
The County of Gelre was created in the 11th century. The name Gelre comes from the town of Geldern, now located in the Kreis Kleve, about 20 kilometers northeast of Venlo. According to a legend, two brothers near Geldern defeated a dragon, whose last cry was ‘Gelre, Gelre’. On this spot the ancestral seat of the graves that followed later was built. In 1138, that county was united with the county of Zutphen by marriage.  From that moment on, the counts of Gelre and Zutphen managed to bind a territory to themselves that we now recognize as our province. In 1399, Gelre was ‘promoted’ to the rank of dukedom. In the late Middle Middle Ages, Gelre’s dukedom was one of the most important political power blocks in Northwest Europe, much more significant than, for example, the County of Holland. Gelre consisted of four territories (quarters) with Nijmegen, Arnhem, Zutphen and Roermond as capitals. The territory of the dukedom covered almost the entire present province of Gelderland, but also the large parts of  north and central Limburg and neighbouring areas in Germany.

Castles and cities
From the 12th century onwards, society changed due to the rise of cities. A whole new population group of merchants and free citizens arose. Nijmegen and Zutphen already had an urban character, but from 1200 onwards, new towns came into being such as Doesburg, Doetinchem, Lochem, Harderwijk, Wageningen, Hattem and Elburg. The count/duke and the nobles had magnificent castles built in the countryside. Doornenburg, Hernen, Cannenburgh, Loevestein, Ammersoyen, Den Wildenborch and Huis Bergh are impressive examples. Between 1450 and 1530 Gelre experienced a cultural and political ‘Golden Age’. The most powerful duke that Gelre ever had was Karel van Egmond. He successfully managed to fight for the independence of Gelre and Zutphen against the ‘superpower’ Habsburg of Emperor Karel V. Not lang after his death in 1538, the dukedom of Gelre and County of Zutphen were incorporated by Emperor Karel V into the then 17 United Provinces within the Habsburg Empire. After this event, the Gelre Middle Ages were over for good.

Historic Sites

Bekijk alle locaties
Bemmel – De Kinkelenburg Castle

Bemmel – De Kinkelenburg Castle

Bemmel
Nijmegen – St. Stevenskerk

Nijmegen – St. Stevenskerk

Nijmegen
M93 – Marschpoort Gate

M93 – Marschpoort Gate

Zutphen
Nijmegen – Mariënburgkapel

Nijmegen – Mariënburgkapel

Nijmegen
Ingen – Geldersweert Castle

Ingen – Geldersweert Castle

Ingen
Sinderen – St Anthony’s Chapel

Sinderen – St Anthony’s Chapel

Sinderen
‘s-Heerenberg – Bergh Castle

‘s-Heerenberg – Bergh Castle

's-heerenberg
Andelst – St.-Vituskerk

Andelst – St.-Vituskerk

Andelst

All locations are loaded.

Something went wrong. Try to reload the page.